SIRVA: A Risk With Every Vaccine

SIRVA: A Risk With Every Vaccine

SIRVA is the underreported, painful side effect of vaccinations that you’ve never heard of.  Learn about the symptoms and how you can avoid it.

Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA) occurs when a vaccine, any vaccine, is injected improperly, causing physical and functional damage to the affected arm and shoulder. The injury occurs when a vaccine is mistakenly injected into the shoulder joint or bursa, a fluid filled sac that keeps the shoulder lubricated and moving smoothly.

Arm injections are aimed at the deltoid muscle, but in the case of SIRVA, are placed too high or too deep into the upper arm, setting up an inflammatory reaction that affects the local tendons, ligaments, nerves and/or bursa. The result is a cluster of symptoms that can include prolonged shoulder pain, limited range of motion, and weakness. The injury, which health professionals have tended to dismiss, is now recognized by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) and the number of claims have risen steadily.

SIRVA is underreported in the medical literature and many, if not most, health care providers have never heard of it. I am a physician who in the past, both received and administered vaccines, and I first learned of SIRVA when I read about it on a wellness blog. At that point, I had seen a number of doctors for shoulder and arm pain so incapacitating that it not only interfered with my daily routine, it also prevented me from falling and staying asleep. I am a strongly left-hand dominant, not the least bit ambidextrous, so this problem affected most aspects of my daily living.

The blog told a story of a woman who had suffered a SIRVA injury, and I felt like I was reading my own story. A light went off and suddenly everything made sense. I realized I’d had a vaccine injury I’d never heard of, and apparently, neither had any of my doctors.

This is my history: In 2009, while in the driver’s seat of my car, stopped at a red light, I reached my right arm straight back to grab something, without turning my body. I heard a distinct ripping sound, which turned out to be my rotator cuff rupturing. Six years later, in 2015, the morning after I was given a pneumonia vaccine in my left arm, I had an uncanny experience: I awoke with the same pain I had with my previous rotator injury. I had pain at rest and pain with attempted movement of the arm. The problem was, in the case of my right arm, I knew exactly when and why it had happened.

No matter how hard I wracked my brain, I couldn’t think of anything that had occurred that could be remotely responsible for my symptoms that morning. I immediately phoned my doctor and scheduled her first available appointment. My primary doctor and my orthopedist, who concluded I had a left rotator injury, never asked about my vaccination history, which I never thought to share.

The first published report of SIRVA in 2007 described the injury resulting from influenza and pneumonia vaccinations. Since then, we learned the most common cause of SIRVA is the seasonal flu shot, representing about 70% of cases, likely because it’s the most commonly administered vaccine. The second most common cause of SIRVA is the tetanus shot. Vaccines are designed to provoke an immune response, which in the case of SIRVA, provoke it in the wrong place.

These are the symptoms of SIRVA:

  • Sudden onset of acute shoulder pain shortly after vaccination. Symptoms develop in 75% of people within 24 hours of vaccination, in 93% within 48 hours. The pain is typically dull and achy at rest, made worse by trying to use the arm for simple tasks such as lifting a cup of coffee, hanging a coat in the closet, brushing hair, and driving.
  • Shoulder pain becomes persistent and chronic, often severe.
  • Limited range of motion of the shoulder joint, which reduces function of arm and shoulder.
  • Arm weakness.
  • Arm and shoulder stiffness.
  • Less common:tendonitis
    • rotator cuff tears
    • frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
      • impingement syndrome
    • brachial nerve damage, brachial neuritis
    • bone erosion

Sleep disturbance both at rest and movement is directly related to the degree of pain and the tendency to immobilize the arm to prevent the pain caused by movement. Treatment for SIRVA begins with pain medication, anti-inflammatory agents and physical therapy. Steroid shots are a second line therapy and surgery is a treatment of last resort. Treatment is generally prolonged, and is not effective in all cases.

To qualify as a SIRVA injury, there must be no history of shoulder problems prior to vaccination and the causative vaccine has to be subject to a federal excise tax and recommended by the CDC for adults as well as children. Adult-only vaccines such as shingles and Pneumovax-23 not covered by the vaccine compensation program, which leaves a malpractice action an option for compensation.

In 2015, the Advisory Commission of Childhood Vaccines decided against recommending changing the law to allow adult-only vaccines to be heard in vaccine court. That same year, the government proposed adding SIRVA to the federally operated “Vaccine Injury Table,” a list of recognized vaccine complications that qualify for compensation through the vaccine court. As of 2016, the federally approved schedule for adult vaccination includes 61 doses of 12 vaccines, which are meant to follow the 69 doses of 16 vaccines recommended in childhood through the age of 18. Since 2011, over 100 SIRVA victims have been paid about $20 million dollars, with at least one, a nurse, over one million. More cases pending and more are likely as awareness rises.

  • The CDC current injection guidelines have been criticized for being one-size-fits-all, listing a one inch long needle as appropriate for use in most patients, except newborns and those weighing over 200 pounds. To avoid over-penetration of the deltoid muscle, researchers suggest a weight-based vaccination technique using needle lengths as short as one half inch for women weighing under 150 pounds. Combining the weight-based vaccination method with purposeful avoidance of the upper third of the arm for injection could potentially eliminate all or nearly all SIRVA injuries.
  • Avoiding vaccination is the only foolproof method of preventing SIRVA. For those who choose to be vaccinated, these steps can reduce the chance of injury:
  • Make sure the health care provider giving the injection is aware of SIRVA it by choosing a needle whose length is appropriate for your weight, and properly injecting the vaccine in the lower two thirds of the deltoid muscle.
  • Remove your shirt or wear one that you can easily pull up over your shoulder. Do not wear a shirt that you pull down, because that exposes your upper shoulder.
  • Take only one vaccine per visit.

I was given Pneumovax-23, so could not apply to the vaccine court for compensation even though my MRI shows tendinopathy, tendon tears and fraying, synovitis, soft tissue swelling and adhesive capsulitis. Almost two years later, I still have pain on movement, which my orthopedist concludes is not likely to go away. I read the package insert for the vaccine, and learned it’s unadjuvanted, so my inflammation was and is caused by my reaction to the actual pneumococcal protein and/or the 0.25% phenol used as a preservative.

I also learned that approval for this vaccine was based on studies of male novice gold miners in South Africa, male and female nursing home residents in France, individuals who have sickle cell disease, absence of the spleen and other chronic conditions, and immunocompetent individuals 65 years or older. I don’t fit any of those categories, but I do qualify for inclusion in the “Post-Marketing Experience” reported as “decreased limb mobility.”

Note: This article was reprinted with permission. It was originally published at The author is a physician interested in how the synergies of evidence-based and modern peer-reviewed knowledge can offer a holistic approach to wellness. 

10 Responses to "SIRVA: A Risk With Every Vaccine"

  1. Caroline   January 26, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    In my doctoral studies in Oriental Medicine, a classmate had shots in both upper arms and wound up with frozen shoulders and still suffers from them after many years. Whether inject correctly or incorrectly doesn’t mean a thing. The arm muscles are affected and since the shoulder muscle are involved, then misery. He gets relief from Tuina (the mother of all massages) which helps him work at his acupuncturist clinic without misery.

  2. Robert L . Wachsmuth s   January 26, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I had that vaccine injury doctors too incompetent to make a vaccine injury report making thousands of dollars in bonuses from vaccine injuries. MURDER HEALTH CARE SYSTEM . F,u, up Health care . KILLING MY FAMILY .

  3. D. Smith   January 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    I realize this article is written by a doctor, but my advice would be to just avoid the shots altogether. DO not fall for their bullshit agenda which tries to make people believe that they NEED those damned shots in the first place. I’ve known more adults who’ve had major problems after tetanus, flu and pneumonia shots than any other segment of our population, those being the three top offenders. I can’t even imagine giving a baby a flu shot. It’s akin to putting poison in their food, and if you think that’s not true you haven’t been doing your due diligence in researching these things.

  4. Robert L . Wachsmuth s   February 2, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    PAYING A Premium for Murder Health Care Insurance , To have the Mentally ILL Doctors KILL YOUR Family .

  5. Abrams   February 7, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    It is really shocking how barbaric medical practice still is. Even Hippocrates (of first do no harm) would be horrified. The doctors are too illiterate to write effective and eligible medical reports which the legal process usually demands for patients to get heard and compensated in the event of an injury (which is more common than is admitted) that most of these injuries go unaddressed. You’ve to ask yourself, suffering for what? so as to keep big pharma and doctors money happy? Everybody knows any time you introduce a chemical into a person (another biochemical process) it has to have an effect, the ad nauseam denials are an absurdity. Safe doesn’t mean a total absence of risk. Only vaccines are marketed and protected this way, where any mention of any risks is eschewed.

  6. Robert Wachsmuth Sr   March 11, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Doctors to Incompetent to know what a Vaccine Injury looks like . Using Vaccine Injury as a Profit Maker .

  7. Cathy   January 4, 2018 at 1:10 am

    Years ago, I experienced severe shoulder/arm pain while lifting my toddler in an awkward fashion. The orthopedic doctor said my rotator cuff wasn’t torn, and the diagnosis was bursitis. A large calcium deposit in my shoulder joint was seen on x-ray. Steroid injections didn’t help. Prescribed exercises were too painful, so I didn’t do them. I used OTC pain relievers daily.
    After a month, the severe pain gradually diminished, but using that arm for routine daily tasks made it really ache the following day. It was a chronic annoyance for over two years.
    Fortunately, essiac tea, the 8-herb formula, two ounces, twice a day, cleared up my aches completely, over a couple weeks. I had been taking the tonic to help with another ailment at the time when I noticed that my arm didn’t bother me anymore. Hmm, interesting. I continued the essiac for two more weeks, and the shoulder pain hasn’t returned. I think it really helped.

  8. Amy   March 13, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    I had a flu shot that resulted in SIRVA, and I’m trying to learn everything I can from peoples’ experiences with recovery: how long it took and what helped. I made an anonymous survey and I’ll be looking at the data and posting about what people have found that worked. If you have SIRVA and especially if you’ve recovered from it (yay! I hope to be there someday too!), please consider sharing your story in this survey so others can learn from your experience! THANKS!

  9. Akashee Agarwal   July 12, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Are you wondering if your baby should get a pneumococcal vaccine shot or not? Make an informed decision after reading this article.

  10. Life is Ovee   October 20, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Here I am reading all this because it’s been 4 days and my vaccine shot hurts like a bitch and it was placed right where my arm bends. I’ve always been an active person who does sports and runs and obstacle races and more…I’m only 28…looks like life is over for me


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